To chum or not to chum?

Submitted by ConsciousBabe on Mon, 2012-04-23 14:16

Could commercial chumming be to blame for recent attacks?

Chumming for sharks is legal - but should it be?Chumming for sharks is legal - but should it be?

Last Friday young local bodyboarder David Lilienfeld was tragically attacked and killed by a shark off Kogel Bay.

Fingers have been instantly pointed at Chris Fischer and NPO Ocearch who, despite public opposition, had been tossing up to 5 tonnes of chum into the False Bay oceans over the last few weeks in an attempt to attract Great Whites for their documentary series 'Sharkmen'. After the attack their permit was revoked.

How could the Department of Environmental Affairs have granted Ocearch a chumming license if they knew it would inevitably attract more sharks to our shores? And if so, why were no serious shark warnings issued on our beaches?

But it seems this issue is not without controversy: While public outcry may have blamed the documentary chumming for this attack, the City of Cape Town claims the two incidents to be unrelated.

'Although the City had no role in the issuing of the Ocearch/Sharkmen permit, it does howeve, hold the view that all relevant scientific protocols, safety considerations and permit requirements were adequately considered by the authorities (with the aid of expert input) prior to issuing the permit to operate in False Bay,' reads their media release.

Other factors were also pointed out, such as that sharks are known to frequent the Kogel Bay and that because there were so few in the water that day th chances of attack were high.

A City representative who was present on the Ocearch boats to supervise claims that due to wind direction the chum used by the 'Sharkmen' team could not have been responsible for the attack - adding that if it had been one of the sharks they had tagged for scientific research its transmitter would have given off a signal.

'Public and media speculation linking the two unrelated activities is uninformed and misleading,' the media release concludes, but others are not so sure...

On hearing about Ocearch's plans, Dr Dirk Schmidt - wildlife photographer and author of two books on Great Sharks - immediately urged Dr Mayekiso (the Deputy Director General for the Oceans and Coasts branch of the DEA) to suspend their permit.

Amongst other concerns, Dr Schmidt was wary that the large amount of chum as well as ‘scent paths’ created by Fischer and his crew would attract more sharks to our shore.
He took it upon himself to issue a Shark Alert Advisory for ocean users in False Bay a week before the attack.

Each year chum slick from Seal Island, fishing activities - in areas like Kalk Bay harbour - as well as the local shark cage diving industry attracts sharks to the already abundant population of Great Whites in False Bay.

While organisations like Kalk Bay's Save Our Seas Foundation works to protect sharks, could chumming for commercial benefit be increasing the number of Great White attacks in The Cape and thus creating more tension between humans and sharks?

What do YOU think?